The Isle of Wight has its first Pioneer Minister after the recent ordination of Heath Monaghan (age 45). Heath has felt God calling him since being confirmed at the age of 13, so his ordination as a Deacon and church minister has fulfilled a long-held ambition.
Heath grew up in a coal-mining community near Durham, where aspiring to be a vicar didn’t quite fit in with people’s expectations. After trying to resist his calling, he re-found faith in his early 20s and since then his career has involved helping the Church to engage with those who don’t have faith. The first time he applied to be ordained, around 10 years ago, he was told to wait. He spent the intervening time creating, and then leading Aspire Ryde, a social action project built on Christian values. He built a team of volunteers to transform the former Trinity Church in Dover Street into a thriving community hub, visited by thousands of people each week.
His new role as a ‘pioneer minister’, means he’ll be creating new worshipping communities in the East Wight for those who don’t engage with more traditional styles of church. Heath explained: “I was turned down the first time I applied for ordination, but it was clearly the wrong time. Instead I felt called to the Isle of Wight and established Aspire Ryde. It’s a social action project, but with a Christian basis, so there is a rhythm of prayer and opportunities for people to explore faith further.
“We also started a church in people’s houses, called Dwell about five years ago, which allowed people to worship at home, and it thrived during lockdown.
“For the past couple of years I’ve been training for ordination, and I feel equipped and ready for what God is going to do next on the Isle of Wight. I’m passionate about the Island, and I’d love to do some outreach among families with young children.
“I won’t be based in one church, but my training will come from the vicar of Bembridge, and I will also be chaplain to Aspire Ryde. It will be an absolute privilege to serve people in these communities.”
Ordained as a deacon alongside Heath, was Rajiv Sidhu, a former teacher at Christ the King College.
Rajiv had been a teacher for 10 years, before being diagnosed as dyslexic when he started learning Hebrew. He believes it gives him a deeper insight into who he is, and why some struggle with Christian teaching, which is often based on words, rather than images or symbols.
Rajiv and his family have moved to Portsmouth and will become a curate at St Cuthbert’s Church in Copnor.
Heath and Rajiv can now be called ‘The Reverend’, lead services and wear dog collars.
The Rev Hannah Barraclough, who became a Deacon last year, has been ordained for a second time as a priest, which means, among other things, she can lead Holy Communion services. She will continue her work in Newport and Carisbrooke and her training to become a vicar.
The ordination services were led by Bishop Rob Wickham, commissary bishop for Portsmouth.